Friday, March 10, 2006

DeutschLand Part I

So last week I went to Germany to attend a conference thingy. It was a lot of fun, and I ate a lot of sausage. I took so many pictures that I have to put them into multiple posts, so here's part 1. If you want me to send you the whole kit and caboodle, e-mail me and I will send you a link.


I took a train to Budapest and then took an EasyJet flight to Berlin. I made this Indiana Jones-style map of my trip:

Pretty nice, huh?

That night we got a free dinner at the hotel, where I loaded up on the French cheese. The German director of the program gave us an opening speech peppered with German humor, which is actually so sophisticated that very few people realize that a joke is being told. Then it was off to bed as I had a big tour of Berlin the next day...


One of my friends on the program, M.S., used to live in Berlin and volunteered to give some of us a tour. Here he is, ready to roll:

We started off at our hotel, which was located at the Alexanderplatz. Many things in Germany are a platz. I made it my mission to see as many platzes in Berlin as I could before I left:

The Alexanderplatz is in what used to be East Berlin, and is where they built one of the city's major symbols, the TV tower. It is much bigger than this picture suggests, and kind of chews up the scenery:

Next we were off to an area that supposedly used to be kind of like the Colonial Williamsburg of East Berlin, where old fashioned German architecture is presented in a theme-parky kind of way. I don't remember what it was called. It did have this nice church:

It also has a number of touristy antique shops. At one of these I found what might be the greatest item in all of Berlin, but the 140 Euro price tag was a bit too steep:

We moved along until we arrived at the sight of a very big church and a very famous museum, the names of both which I have forgotten. I have a good excuse for this, however, because this is where we ran into hundreds of Nazi soldiers:

Surprised? I guess I was a little bit too, because I figured that large gatherings of Nazi soldiers were at least frowned upon by the German government. It ends up that these were not actual Nazi soldiers from the 40's, but were instead actors who were shooting a scene for a new movie, which I assume deals with Nazis.

While I enjoyed being magically thrust back into past, with the rare opportunity to live through a fascinating period of history, I'm sure I didn't have half as much fun as the group of Neo-Nazis who were taking pictures of themselves in front of gigantic swastikas in central Berlin. I guess everyone needs a hobby.

And speaking of that big church, it was quite nice:

Then we stopped at the memorial to victims of violence:

If you think this is unfunny, and you only visit this site to be enriched by my asinine jokes about potatoes, I recommend you skip to the end because we are entering a humor and sarcasm free zone.

Here are some pictures I took at our next stop, the Holocaust Memorial. It really started to snow, which you can see in the pictures. It's a very interesting structure, and pretty powerful:

Right down the street is the remains of an SS bunker where they used to torture dissidents, which also is on a site that the Berlin wall passed through. They turned the site into an outdoor exhibit about the Holocaust and the Nuremberg trials:

One of the exhibits was about the different badges that the Nazis made people in concentration camps wear. They just didn't like anybody!

I have quite a few more pictures of these sites if you're interested. And now something to lighten the mood:

Next was the Brandenburg Gate, which made a big impression on me by being much smaller than I expected:

We had some lunch, which I somehow forgot to take a picture of, and then headed to Checkpoint Charlie. Here are the pictures of Checkpoint Charlie. (It may seem like I am phoning this in, and I am, but I am rushing to get to out the door to dinner, so please understand my lack of spelling/grammar/humor).

Following this (still awake?) we took the train to what was West Berlin, and visited this church which had been bombed in WW2. They left the roof unrepaired, perhaps to show the world what a church looks like when you drop a bomb on the roof. I always wondered:

Next to the old church they built a funky new church, which is the boxy looking thing in the foreground of the last picture covered in scaffolding. Inside they have something I can only describe as "Electric Jesus":

Of course we were hungry after this, so we stopped for German style coffee and cake. I had the "nougat" cake, mainly because I thought it would sound funny on this blog. It ends up that it doesn't:

That night we went to the "Opening Ceremonies" of the conference, which was opened by this opera signer and trumpet player:

They were very good, and must have been better than the opening ceremony of the Tourino games, which I heard on the Daily Show played 80's pop hits while the different nations entered the stadium. That's a little tacky, even for my taste.

Afterwards there was a nice cocktail thingy, where we received wine and snacks. In this picture you can see wine, snacks, and Megan, a teacher from the Czech program.

I mention Megan, and her friend Jesse, because they along with the help of their Czech colleague Karla discovered my blog even when I tried my best to keep it hidden from prying googlers. I guess it wasn't too hidden, and anyway now I can link you to their blogs, which are much better done than mine. Here is Megan , Jesse , and Karla’s blogs, focusing (in reverse order) on modern art, music and urinary tract infections, check them out. And here is Jesse, eating Indian food:

Come back next time for more action packed fun, including a man with a sausage cart on his back!


Swen-dog said...

This post was the blog equivalent of my uncle Mortimer's family vacation slideshow.

M.L. said...

Is that good or bad? I vote good.

Karla said...

Wow, now I want to know about uncle Mortimer's vacation slideshow.

Sorry I didn't make it to Berlin to hang out with you guys, but it was a little expensive. Jesse said the Czech and Slovak contingents were more fun than the receptions, but perhaps Megan had a different reaction?! Anyway, now I have to come up with a good story about how I repeatedly fell off the ski lifts in the Beskydy. Sorry, Jesse didn't get any photos of that happening.

Jesse said...

I'm glad that my picture was tangentially food-related. It keeps up your restaurant review focus. :)

I can't believe you passed up that cat portrait!

Karla said...

More weird cat portraits are clearly needed. Incidentally, I have found a site that has something of the kind (well, not quite like your weird cat portrait), as well as dogs, rabbits, otters, and lizards. I'm also reminded of a Prague window display I need to photograph.